Rough Riders #14
Publication date: 11th December 2012
Sierra could not believe her dad was making her ride the bus home from school.
The school bus.
Who gets stuck riding the bus? Especially in high school?
Great way to start her school year.
Hoisting her backpack higher, she walked to the semi-circle where the buses were belching diesel. She started with the last one, searching for number one eleven. Some kid hung out the window of one thirteen and yelled out, “I love you, Sierra!”
She ignored the jerk, who was no doubt being sarcastic since she was the new girl, and kept her head down.
At least she hadn’t been a total pariah, but being fresh meat in the small high school had made her a novelty. She’d met so many people she couldn’t keep them all straight. But she knew the novelty would wear off, probably within a week.
A shadow fell in step with her and she glanced over at the freckled redheaded cowgirl.
Marin Godfrey had taken it upon herself to befriend Sierra first thing in homeroom yesterday. They had two classes together and lunch, so Sierra hadn’t had to sit by herself.
“Hey, Arizona. You took off fast after the last bell rang.”
“I didn’t want to miss my bus since I didn’t ride it yesterday.”
“Your bus is always in the middle. I’m jealous. All the good people ride on your bus. That’s the one everyone wants to be on.”
Sierra wondered what good people meant.
Marin smiled. “You’ll see. Perverts ride on my bus. Always trying to cop a feel. And the grade school boys are the worst.”
“So the school secretary wasn’t bullshitting my dad? Everyone in high school really rides the bus home every day?”
“Not everyone, not every day. Like the jocks have practice after school. But everyone else? Pretty much.”
Bizarre. Didn’t any of these people have cars? In Arizona everyone she knew had a car and no one rode the bus. She didn’t think her school district even had buses. “What if there’s a drama club meeting or something?”
“If there’s an activity or a club meeting, it’s held after supper, not after school, if it can be helped.”
“The school is big on parental involvement and that means scheduling stuff when adults are done with work. Most the kids who ride the bus have chores to do after school anyway.”
Chores. Such a foreign concept to her. After school let out in Arizona, she’d flopped on her bed and napped or watched TV until her dad got home from work.
“That’s why there’s no morning bus service,” Marin continued. “Gotta get them early chores done. So what’re you doing when you get home?”
“I’m sure my dad will grill me on how my second day of school went. If I made new friends. What I had for lunch. If I have homework.”
“That’s better than cleaning the chicken coop.” Marin pointed to the open door. “This one is yours. You’ve got my number. Call me later if you want.” She raced off.
Sierra reached the top step on the bus and the driver stopped her. “You’re Sierra?”
“How did you know?”
The older lady laughed. “Darlin’, I know every kid on this bus and have for years, most their parents too. So it’s nice to see a new face.”
“Oh. Which stop am I supposed to get off at?”
“Third to last stop .” Then the driver’s eyes were on the mirror, watching someone behind her. “Jimmy Dale, don’t you be messing with Liesl on the ride home, you hear me? Or I’ll make you sit up front.”
“Yes, Mrs. Craftsman.”
Sierra walked down the aisle. Little kids sat up front. A guy wearing a gray hoodie had claimed the last seat on the right. His athletic shoes hung off the end of the seat and he radiated a “back off” vibe. She chose a spot four seats up on the left.
Two girls from her history and math classes nodded at her they passed by, sliding into the seat opposite the hoodie wearer. A junior high couple sat two seats ahead and immediately started making out. Four guys she recognized from the lunchroom pushed and shoved each other, tossing out, “Hey, baby, we love you,” all the way to the back of the bus.
At least the spot next to her had stayed empty.
When the bus pulled out, she slipped in her earbuds and cranked her iPod, the universal leave-me-alone sign, focusing her attention out the window.
Maybe that wasn’t an obvious signal in Wyoming; she felt a tap on her shoulder.
She ignored it.
Less than thirty seconds later, a more insistent tap was followed by a loud, “Hey! I’m talkin’ to you.”
Sierra met the blue eyes of the dark-haired boy, about twelve, draped over the edge of the seat in front of her. He motioned for her to take out her earbuds. “What? Am I in your seat or something?”
“Nope. Man, you’re hot. Like really hot.”
Awesome that the elementary set thought she was dateable. But if this kid tried to cop a feel like Marin had warned, she’d deck him.
“Bet you can’t guess who I am?”
Her mind supplied a pain in the butt, but she said, “I have no idea.”
She shook her head.
“Come on,” he cajoled. “Just one time.”
“Look, kid, I—”
“One guess,” he repeated stubbornly.
“Leave her alone, Ky,” came from the back of the bus.
Who had warned this kid off? She slowly turned.
The hoodie guy had removed his hood and was staring straight at her.
Oh hello, gorgeous. The guy was hot…beyond words actually, with long brown hair that nearly brushed his wide shoulders and dark scruff on his cheeks. He certainly didn’t look like he belonged in high school.
“Shut it, Boone. I wasn’t talkin’ to you,” the kid in front of her retorted.
Boone? Now that was a western name.
Silent Mercy by Lorelei James writing as award-winning mystery author Lori Armstrong
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